Confidence grows in Sissonville
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sissonville's success on the diamond this season has been like a snowball rolling downhill: With each victory, the Indians have gained more and more confidence.
That was on display last week when unranked Sissonville upset No. 2 Herbert Hoover 7-3 in Falling Rock in the Class AA Region 4 semifinals.
Now the Indians (17-12) find themselves one win away from the state tournament as they visit another nemesis in No. 3 Wayne (23-6) in the Region 4 final at 6 p.m. Thursday. (See Page 2B for state pairings.)
Sissonville lost twice to the Pioneers during the regular season by scores of 9-0 and 5-1. The Indians are looking for lightning to strike twice as Hoover also beat them twice (3-2 and 2-1) before they broke through in the postseason.
"All these girls, it's like we're one big family,'' said Sissonville coach Nikki Gross. "They're upbeat and keep each other up during games and these girls talk all the time. We're really close and I think that helps us.''
The Indians started the year with one of the youngest starting lineups in the Kanawha Valley with six freshmen and two sophomores. Gross knew the freshmen were full of potential as they guided Sissonville Middle School to an undefeated record and the Kanawha County championship last season.
"We've finally realized what it takes to win each game,'' said the Indians coach. "At the beginning of the season when we first started practicing I was like, 'Wow, we have something big going on here.' ''
The season, though, got off to a rocky start with Sissonville posting a 10-11 mark through its first 21 games. The Indians turned it around, sporting a five-game winning streak and victories in seven of their last eight.
Freshman pitcher-third baseman Alexee Haynes (.518), sophomore catcher Katelyn Linville (.374), sophomore third baseman-center fielder Taylor Lee (.372), freshman shortstop Karli Pinkerton (.363) and freshman first baseman-outfielder Abbey Jordan (.361) have produced when it matters most.
"I think it was all nerves,'' said Gross. "They didn't realize what it was like at the next level. Then when we got some wins it was like, 'We can do this. This is no different.' Once we got to sectionals we gained this big momentum and we haven't stopped.''
The stabilizing force for the band of sisters has been senior pitcher-first baseman Bekah Baldwin, a four-year starter who has signed with West Virginia State.
Baldwin, who is the pitching ace and cleanup hitter, leads the Indians in RBIs (35) and triples (four) and is second in batting average (.453), doubles (11) and home runs (four). She owns a 9-9 record with a 2.50 earned run average with 99 strikeouts.
More importantly, though, Baldwin's steady leadership has been what the youngsters needed most.
"She's been a lot more vocal and a team leader this year,'' Gross said. "She's feeling really confident.''
The Sissonville program hasn't advanced this far since 2002, when the Indians won the AA state championship.
"It's shocking to everyone,'' Gross said of the team's success. "It seems like we're gaining fans and everybody is with us. We've just got to be physically and mentally prepared. I believe in them.''
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4811.